Doctrine of Pari Materia

The basic rule of interpretation is to give effect to the plain meaning of the statute. when in need of finding a meaning, court might research using internal or Pari Materia approach (external)
The basic rule of interpretation is to give effect to the plain meaning of the statute. when in need of finding a meaning, court might research using internal or Pari Materia approach (external)
Doctrine of Pari Materia
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The basic rule of interpretation is to give effect to the plain meaning of the statute. If it is not clear and ambiguous, then the court can take recourse of different aids of interpretation. Pari Materia forms a part of this interpretation need.

There are two types of aids of interpretation-internal aid and external aid.
Internal aids means the aid are within the statutes, e.g. long title, short title, preamble, schedule, and any other provisions of the same Act.

If the ambiguity is still not clear, then the court can use External aids to interpret a particular provision. Examples of External aid are dictionary, parliamentary debate, foreign judgment, provisions of other Acts. Pari Materia is a kind of external aid. Pari materia means when two provisions of two different statutes deal with the same subject matter and form part of the same subject matter.


Pari materia means when two provisions of two different statutes deal with the same subject matter and form part of the same subject matter.

It is a latin word. Use of pari materia is well established by the Judiciary.

In District Mining Officer and others v Tata Iron & Steel Co. and another , it was established that pari materia can be used as an external aid of interpretation.

Example : The General clauses Act 1897 is an example of it. Section 3 of Transfer of Property Act 1882 read with General clauses Act 1897 gives interpretation for the phrase “immovable property”.
Pari materia will be used only when the subject matter of the statutes is similar. The principle underlying the treatment of Acts which are in pari materia is based on the idea that there is continuity of legislative approach in such Acts, and common terminology.
Statutes in pari materia are to be taken as one system to suppress the mischief.

Need for pari materia.

It is important to know the need of pari materia. The reason behind Judiciary to use this principle is to avoid contradiction or conflict between/ among statutes dealing with the same subject matter. It helps to interpret the words of the later statute in the light of earlier statutes in the same context. If the words of a statute has been recognized and interpreted by the Judiciary in a particular way and it has already gained an authoritative value, then it is obvious that the statue(s) having similar words/ context will be dealt in the same manner.

Situations where pari materia is applicable.

  1. Different Acts having same subject matter.
    Similar language in statutes with common purpose is interpreted in the same way.
    Six Different Acts having same subject matter has to be read together.
    It is generally applicable to public statutes or general statutes made at different times and in reference to the same subject matter.
    When parliament uses same words in different statutes, it generally intends to mean the same thing only.
    Case Laws : In State of Madras v. A. Vaidyanath Iyars section 4 of Prevention of corruption Act, 1947, was in question which provides on proof that that accused has accepted and in gratification, other than legal remuneration, it shall be presumed unless contrary is established by the accused that gratification was accepted as a bribe.
    This section was held to be in pari materia with subject dealt with by Indian evidence Act, 1872. As such, for construing the words, “it shall be presumed” occurring in section 4 of prevention of corruption act 1947, the definition of the expression, “shall presume‘ was taken from evidence Act and utilized.
  2. Assistance of an earlier statute .
    It is a well-established principle that the later statutes are constructed in the light of earlier statutes. When same words are used in similar context in a later statute, it is presumed that they have same meaning as in the earlier statute.
    When the words of an earlier statute has got an authoritative exposition by a superior court, use of same words in similar context in a later Act gives rise to a presumption that Parliament intends that the same interpretation should also be followed for construction of those words in later statutes.
  3. Different statutes are in pari materia.
    Where there are different statutes are in pari materia though made at different times, or even expired, and not referring to each other, they shall be taken and constructed together, as one system, and as explanatory of each other.
  4. Statutes having not exactly same subject matter.
    It is not necessary that the referring statute and the referred statute will have exactly same subject matter for calling them as pari materia with each other. Subject matter of the two Acts should not be identical for application of this rule.
    In Kusum Ingots & Alloys Ltd v Union of India Sec 20(c) of Code of Civil Procedure and Article 226(2) of Constitution of India are held to be in pari materia with each other.
    Decisions interpreting the former have been held to apply in the later.
    20 c of CPC : he cause of action, wholly or in part, arises.
    [Explanation].-A corporation shall be deemed to carry on business at its sole or principal office in [India] or, in respect of any cause of action arising at any place where it has also a subordinate office, at such place.
    Article 226(2) in The Constitution Of India 1949 (2) The power conferred by clause (1) to issue directions, orders or writs to any Government, authority or person may also be exercised by any High Court exercising jurisdiction in relation to the territories within which the cause of action, wholly or in part, arises for the exercise of such power, notwithstanding that the seat of such Government or authority or the residence of such person is not within those territories.
    It was the issue of Jurisdiction regarding initiating cause of action.
  5. Later statutes in pari materia with earlier Acts.
    Subsequent laws are regarded as supplementary or complimentary to the earlier enactments. Generally an earlier Act which is in pari materia with the later Act is used to interpret the later statute.
    While interpreting the provisions of an earlier Act, the provisions of the later Act are normally not taken into consideration except in few exceptional cases. This kind of interpretation will not be allowed if the later Act is made to amend the earlier Act, then the later Act operates on its own.
    Later Act will become relevant only when there is some ambiguity or confusion with the meaning of the earlier Act.
    It can also be used if the provisions of the earlier Act are giving diverse meaning.
    The subsequent legislation cannot obviously alter the previous legislation, but if there is any ambiguity in the earlier statute, the later statute can clear the ambiguity by giving a proper interpretation. Even if the later Act contains a provision that it is to be read as one with the earlier Act, this rule will still be applicable.
    State of Bihar v S. K. Roy- In this case confusion arose regarding the definition of “coal mine” under the Coal Mines Provident Fund and Bonus Scheme Act 1948 before its 1948 amendment.
    Court took the assistance of the amendment Act 1948 to define “coal mine”. The change in the language of s. 2(b) of the earlier Act brought about by the amending Act (Act 45 of 1965) was not meant to bring about a change of law in this respect but was meant to fix a proper interpretation upon the earlier Act.
  6. Statute is in pari materia with delegated legislation.
    Not only statutes are used to construct statutes which are in pari materia with other statutes , but also delegated legislations are referred.

Situations where Acts are not in pari materia

  • When a new statutory provision is used in the text of existing statute, it should be read as one. But problem may arise when terminology used are not identical with the original Act.
  • When the new legislation although re-enacting many provisions from earlier statutes, contains a good deal of fresh materia and deals with a subject on which social views have drastically changed, it may not be proper to rely on the earlier authorities for construing the new legislation. Change of interpretation should be seen as the changed intention of the Legislature.
  • Use of one state legislation to construe another state legislation on the same subject matter is not commendable because there can be variation in the language.
  • When the two Acts are not in pari materia, then decision rendered with reference to one Act cannot be applied with reference to the provisions of another Act.


Application of pari materia is same for both India and UK. Though it has a wide
application still there is no standard rule to decide whether a statute is in pari materia with other statutes in both the States . The way in which a particular term has been interpreted in several statutes does not show any direction in which that term has be understood.

Sometimes it becomes difficult to understand and to implement. Statutes having same subject matter are not the only criteria to determine the factors of it.

There are a lot of things upon which it depends. It is also said that the Acts must be a part of a system.

But there can be situation where the Judiciary had to look into the other aspects to determine the factors of pari materia.

It is high time the Legislature should think to codify the law on pari materia, so that it becomes easy for the Judiciary to interpret it properly.


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